The Russian navy has been ordered to lay mines in the ports of Odesa and Ochakiv and has already extracted the Dnieper River, which part of a blockade of Ukrainian grain exports according to recently declassified US intelligence services.
U.S. officials also released satellite images showing the damage inflicted by Russian missile attacks earlier this month on Ukraine’s second-largest grain terminal in nearby Mykolaiv, at a time when the disruption of grain exports is threatening to trigger a global famine. Sunflower oil storage tanks at Mykolaiv were under attack on Wednesday.
Russia has refused to build mines around the ports of the Black Sea, and has reversed the allegations about Kiev, claiming instead that the Ukrainians have mined their own ports.
The United States says its intelligence points to a coordinated Russian strategy to cut off the stretch of coast that is still under Ukrainian control. “The United States has information that the Black Sea Fleet is under order to effectively block the Ukrainian ports of Odesa and Ochakiv,” a US official said.
“We can confirm that despite Russia’s public claims that they are not extracting the northwestern Black Sea, Russia is actually exposing mines in the Black Sea near Ochakiv. We also have indications that Russian forces have previously mined the Dnieper River.”
“The impact of Russia’s actions, which have caused a cessation of maritime trade in the northern third of the Black Sea and made the region unsafe for navigation, cannot be underestimated as Ukraine’s seaborne exports are crucial to global food security,” the official said. , and pointed out that Ukraine supplied a tenth of global wheat exports, and about 95% of these exports left the country through Black Sea ports.
Alternative land routes are being explored while they The UK has offered technical expertise to Turkey, which has offered to escort cargo ships through the Black Sea. But Ankara said it had not been able to set a date for a meeting with Russian officials to discuss the proposed grain convoys.
The United States also downgraded satellite images on Thursday showing the extent of damage inflicted in a Russian attack on June 4 at the Nika-Tera grain terminal in Mykolaiv, the second largest in Ukraine.
“The picture makes it clear that the Russian invasion of Ukraine has led to the destruction of three of the site’s grain silos as well as the transportation system that loads grain on ships,” the US official said. “Due to Russia’s attack, the export capacity of the grain terminal has been reduced by at least one third.”
Video recordings were released Thursday also showed severe damage to at least two sunflower oil storage tanks at a terminal in Ukraine’s Black Sea port Mykolaiv, caused by a Russian missile attack on Wednesday.
The Kremlin has formally refused to try to trigger a global famine, but earlier this week Margarita Simonyan, the head of the Russian propaganda business RT, suggested that was the strategy.
“The famine will start now and they will lift the sanctions and be friends with us because they will realize that it is impossible not to be friends with us,” Simonyan told the St Petersburg Economic Forum.